We wouldn’t be a “southern kitchen” if we didn’t fry okra
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 33. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
Okra season is upon us, and we’re pretty excited. Due to the abundance of rain we’ve had this month, okra has been rather scarce. It’s been a shaky start for local crops, because these African plants, which come from the Mallow family thrive in hot, dry climates. Things may be looking up though because Farlow Farm and Meadows Family Farms both report positive news. When the plants hit their stride, the pods grow so rapidly in the heat of the summer that the plants often have to be harvested twice a day.
Recipe: Okra Popcorn
When we’re unable to get fresh okra, we won’t fry it. We will buy it frozen, to use in stews or gumbo, but those are heartier, wintry dishes anyway. Although it’s available all year in some form, fresh okra is great in the summer because it travels the shortest distance to your plate. During the peak of summer, if the good stuff’s around, we prefer not to adulterate it with a cacophony of too many flavors. we want the flavors of the okra to be at the forefront of the dish, and fried okra is the best way to do that. If you lightly batter and fry okra with just a little salt, buttermilk, cornmeal and a hint of spice, it stands out with little manipulation and you can really taste it. You can eat it like popcorn, hence the “okra popcorn” on our menu.
Tips for Frying Okra
- Barely trim the tops and bottom of the vegetable, cut into half-inch rounds, toss it in some buttermilk, dredge in your breader (our recipe is below), shake in a sifter to remove the excess flour and then fry.
- Fry it in piping hot shallow oil.
- Make sure that if the okra crushes under the weight of the knife, don’t cut it up and fry it. That’s a sign that it’s too “woody,” or fibrous, making it unpalatable.
- Typically, if okra is longer than your fingers, it’s not ideal for cooking. The smaller it is, the more tender it will be and no amount of cooking can tenderize okra that’s too large.
- Okra is best eaten right when you buy it but should be stored in a plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen’s Fried Okra
Okra Breader *this recipe is to be used with 2 oz. of buttermilk for every ½ pound of okra
- ½ cup corn meal
- ½ cup corn flour
- 1 tbsp Creole Seasoning
- 2 ½ tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp black pepper
- 3 tsp onion powder
- 3 tsp cayenne powder
- 3 tsp oregano leaves
- 3 tsp thyme leaves
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well-blended. Transfer the breader to a shallow dish for dredging.
More Okra Tips:
Beyond frying okra, we love to take the pinky-sized baby okra of the bunch and serve it blackened with creole seasoning or skewered and grilled with a drizzle of white vinegar and some salt and pepper, as sort of an impromptu pickled okra. Pickled okra is something I can’t get enough of. When prepared just like you would dill pickles, it lasts for quite some time and is a wonderful appetizer or accompaniment to a sandwich or a plate of cheese. Along with frying okra in hot oil, the vinegar used in the chemical process of pickling is also a great way to help counteract some of the inherent sliminess found in the vegetable’s texture. In addition, cooking okra with tomatoes achieves the same effect, because of the high acidity levels in tomatoes.
Some Fun Facts About Okra:
- The word okra originates from West Africa
- One nickname for okra is “lady’s fingers,” due to the long, slender nature of the vegetable’s pods
- It’s from the same family as hollyhocks, cotton and hibiscus
- It is high in fiber, folate and vitamin C and is also a good source of calcium, potassium and antioxidants
- Okra plants have beautiful white or yellow flowers which open in the morning
For more recipes, visit https://www.lucky32.com/recipes.htm
How do you like to eat your okra?